Written by Gabriel Huland and Juan Ignacio Mayer
Thursday, 03 September 2015 18:16
The current immigration crisis in Europe must be understood as the tip of the iceberg of a much deeper systemic crisis of the capitalist system in its present stage of decline and destruction. Such crises are occurring at dwindling intervals of time and are more profound and destructive. The way out given by the governments of Europe and the US is increasing the misery in the periphery and in their own countries to continue guaranteeing the richer their profits.
The EU is not a project of sustainable and humanitarian capitalism but a war machine against the peoples to ensure the benefits of the great German and French capital. It is co responsible, along with other governments, of wars and social tragedies that plague the African, Asian and Latin American countries and push millions of workers to resort to the last alternative left: the involuntary immigration. European governments are responsible for the deaths in the Mediterranean and the scenes of barbarism we are witnessing in recent days on the borders of Europe.
The drama of immigration
Entire families cross the wire fence separating Hungary and Serbia to enter the EU territory. Dozens of people huddled like animals on flimsy boats to reach the Greek islands from the Turkish coast. People floating in the Mediterranean Sea near the Italian coast observed by the Coast Guard. The faces of these people, who have to follow these routes in search of dignity and protection, show fear and uncertainty for not knowing where they are going to or whether they will stay alive. Most of those who manage to go all the way up to Europe have to pay absurd amounts to the mafias that turn the horror of war into a highly profitable business .
These images have swept social networks in recent weeks, as it is being treated in the press as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. It’s hard not to be moved. The drama of the refugees coming to Europe from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Iraq are drawing the attention of half the world. Syria is again on the center of the stage, since more than half of the current wave of refugees come from there, and many wonder what really happens in this country.
The mass media, as usual try to transform the human drama on a great show, in order to attract attention and sell more advertising, but none explains the causes and the consequences of what is currently happening at European borders. The situation is serious and requires quick responses.
“So far this year, the number of people who has reached EU territory through Hungary is 100,000, compared with 40,000 who entered throughout 2014. To cope with the continuous flow of immigrants arriving from Serbia with the ultimate goal of reaching Germany or Sweden, Budapest has asked Brussels additional eight million euros to 61 million already disbursed three weeks ago. ‘We have received the request and are analyzing to unlock the money as soon as possible,’ the Immigration spokeswoman, Natascha Bertaud, confirmed this Tuesday. The UN also warns that the number of people passing through Macedonia on foot with the goal of reaching Hungary is between 1,500 and 2,000 each night.” (El País, 25/08/2015)
On the other hand, in the Mediterranean, from January to August, over 2,000 people have died trying to cross it. Most were killed in the Sicilian Channel, between Libya and Italy, the most dangerous route. Coastguards have rescued more than 188,000 people at sea in 2015. In 2014 about 280,000 people applied for asylum, 164% more than in 2013. The figures are frightening precisely because they are not just figures, but human lives.
This table shows that is not so disproportionate to compare the current situation with that of World War II. And all this happens in Europe where supposedly the dream of free movement of persons, a borderless world, is experienced as propagated by the advocates of the European Union.
More legal obstacles and repression
With the significant increase in people coming to Europe from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, it has opened a tense debate between the governments of Europe in relation to how to handle the situation. The states that are a gateway to Europe, such as Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Macedonia and Greece demand greater funding to its border policemen and a better distribution of newcomers among the countries that are part of the EU. The current debate revolves around fees and financing patrol operations. The primary objective is to reduce the influx of refugees to the minimum possible and necessary, not to combat the root causes of this humanitarian crises.
The Frontex is the EU agency for integrated border management in member countries. It works as an advisor for coastguards and border police of the 27 EU countries, apart from having its own equipment and services from private companies. Between 2007 and 2013, the EU spent about 4 billion euros in border control operations and repression to immigration, compared with 700 million euros in aid to refugees (17%), according to an Amnesty International report.
The current legislation requires the newcomer to seek asylum in the country where he touches the European soil for the first time (Treaty of Dublin). As attention to refugees in neighboring countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain is too precarious, most prefer not to register in these countries and continue their journey to northern countries such as Sweden and Germany. The border police generally turn a blind eye to them and give way to people who want it.
The exodus of refugees triggers a crisis in the EU
However, in recent weeks, the situation has gotten completely out of control, with an exponential increase of people fleeing Syria, mainly, but also from other countries. The total number of internally and externally displaced Syrians reaches nearly 12 million. 4 million out of the country. The situation of chaos was what led the German government to change its policy and announces that no longer will follow the guidelines of the Treaty of Dublin, going to also accept from now on people already registered in other countries.
The change in attitude of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, just weeks after starring a pathetic episode of saying in front of television cameras to a Palestinian girl she had to return home, has nothing to do with a sudden awareness on the part of the “most important” woman in Europe, about the plight of the refugees, but with the need to organize their entry into European territory and allow a better distribution of quota among countries. The German daily Die Tageszeitung warned recently that the situation at the borders of Austria and Hungary is just a prelude to what can happen in the near future to the main European powers if necessary measures are not taken urgently.
The border protection is already done jointly at a European level, through Frontex, it remains now the issue of sharing the people who get in. Many Syrian newcomers, to cite one example, are young and skilled workers who will be contracted by German companies for low wages. Minijobs, temporary contracts without the right to social security will meet this labor supply to the German labor market. Gradually come to light the true intentions of the leaders of the EU, beyond the hypocritical talk of solidarity among peoples pronounced on special occasions.
The heads of government in Europe have announced an emergency meeting for mid-September to discuss the situation. We know this story. They will come together to better organize the repression of immigrants and, as in many other occasions, will not measure up to the expectations. They will present a plan to contain the “illegal” immigration, in their racist vocabulary. They will not face this crisis in its true human dimension.
The Spanish government increases repression at its borders
The Spanish State is one of the worst countries to deal with refugees in Europe. From 2007-2013 it spent 32 times more money on border control than to aid refugees fleeing war or famine caused largely by policies supported by European governments in the semicolonial countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In fact, the management of aid is allocated to non-governmental agencies like the Red Cross and the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), which attend refugees and decide the distribution of scarce resources.
The Spanish government proposes to accept, within a quota system proposed by the EU, approximately 3,000 people in 2015, a number far less than proposed by Brussels, about 6,000 people. Which is still completely insufficient. The PP government will rather bet on increasing repression at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as patrols in the Mediterranean Sea. It is common for the Coast Guard to use rubber bullets and tear gas against people at sea, resulting in various occasions in deaths and injuries. On the other hand, return shot theoretically prohibited by the European treaties, occur frequently in the Spanish territory.
“The Government Gazette published on Tuesday the Public Safety Act (popularly known as ‘gag law’) whose First Final Provision amends the Immigration Act to protect the summary return to Morocco of migrants intercepted at the border fences of Ceuta and Melilla under the new legal concept of ‘border rejection’, or what is known as hot returns.” (Public, 31 / 03/2015)
Asylum seekers who obtain a residence permit are completely abandoned by the Spanish authorities and have to fend for themselves by other means, mainly through the support of family and friends already living in the country. Refugee Organizations claim and fight for the respect of their rights, including the right to housing, to work, to comprehensive health care and quality public education that would allow them to rebuild their lives and integrate in societies to where they have been forced to immigrate.
Solidarity with the refugees
Europe is divided on the issue of refugees. On the one hand, beautiful demonstrations of solidarity by important sectors of society can be seen. Thousands and thousands of people are offering their homes to welcome the newly arrived refugees. This solidarity is spontaneous and born out of the consciousness of a people who know what is the drama of immigration. On the other hand, growing fascist gangs who attack and blame immigrants for unemployment and other problems that actually have been generated by European governments and the EU.
Recently, the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona have declared their willingness to include two municipalities in a network of host cities. Manuela Carmena said in a radio interview that she “is willing to do whatever is necessary to accommodate those who need it, but want it to be the government that tells them how many people will come to Madrid.”
We can not wait for the Government to indicate the number of people who enter the country. The number worked out by Rajoy is unworthy of mention. The urgency of the situation demands quick solutions. The central government, autonomous regions and municipalities should immediately allocate a budget for aid to refugees, both for those already here and those who will come in the future. Empty floors must be immediately expropriated from banks, for example, and used to house homeless families. The number of empty homes in the Spanish State is sufficient to shelter a million people.
- We have to stop this catastrophe. All solidarity with refugees!
- Asylum for all applicants at European borders!
- No to repression at the borders and aid to refugees!
- Suspend the payment of debt to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe!
- Expropriation of empty houses to make them available to newly arrived refugee families!
- Basic rights for all refugees in Europe!